It’s time for us to move on. Mobile isn’t the so-called “future” anymore. It’s what’s happening now. No one’s going to chuck their iPhone out of the window and cry out, “What have I been doing with this silly old thing? I need to dig my old Gateway out of the attic, hunker down, and surf the WORLD WIDE INTERWEBS!” That’s not to say the world has moved on from PCs; the world has simply moved on from the stationary desktop. Now, in the middle of the mobile revolution, while creative minds are still going through growing pains on how to effectively utilize mobile platforms, is the perfect time to innovate in learning. “Mobile learning” has become a popular buzzword, but no one has really figured out exactly what that term entails.
Before getting down to talking about mobile learning, let’s define what “mobile” even means. Although they are more portable than desktops, laptops are still too bulky and traditionally-featured to be considered “mobile.” Mobile refers to smartphones and tablets (Yes, smartphones only; your old black and white Nokia brick phone doesn’t count). These two platforms are ultra-portable and are commonly controlled through multi-touch technology, allowing for effortless gesture controls like swipes and pinches. Mobile allows users to literally reach out and touch content. There is no filter between the user and the content. No keyboard, no mouse, no keypad; just the user and the screen (This description doesn’t take into account the people are turn their tablets into Frankenstein’s Monster by decking it out with any useless peripheral they can find in an effort to turn it into a laptop). Everything feels so intuitive and natural that small children can learn to deftly maneuver through the interface in a matter of minutes.
Disruptive technology creates a ripple effect of disruption across all industries. The personal computing revolution of the 1980s fundamentally changed businesses, as did the dawn of the internet era in the 1990s. Mobile is the new revolution, and the revolution shows no sign of slowing down; this can be attributed to the constant stream of innovation offered up by developers in the form of new apps. Mobile devices are the tool of the twenty-first century, a tool limited solely by the bounds of a developer’s creativity.
With such fertile ground for innovation comes the opportunity to make waves in learning. Mobile’s intuitive and engrossing interface means that Mobile Learning could teach in a manner never seen before, even traditional eLearning. The mobile learner is not chained to a desk and staring into the glow of a monitor, forced to devote a designated block of time to his or her growth and development. Instead, they carry around a versatile device with them at all times, a constant companion to aid in their personal growth. Mobile learning means being able to interact with eLearnings like never before: through multi-touch interfaces, or through notification systems to help users while they work. As with everything mobile, the possibilities are limited to the designer’s imagination.
Mobile Learning is the future of learning because it allows users to take their education with them, in a literal sense. It helps users to stay productive and work at the same time. Their mobile companion is with them every step of the way to foster their curiosity and creativity. How exactly will these promises be fulfilled? Leave that to us…
How many times in the past few years have you read a corporate job posting for a ‘training specialist’ that insists the candidate possess the world’s most astounding skill set? Let’s see, in addition to being able to effectively size-up and analyze an organization’s training needs, this person needs to have superior interpersonal skills, the ability to work effectively and confidently with management to make recommendations, exceptional instructor-led training abilities both in design and presentation, the savvy to work closely with SME’s to interpret their needs and write curriculum, and an ability to create and manage a large budget. IN ADDITION, they must have full knowledge of LMS systems and must have experience in all facets of eLearning – storyboarding, designing, developing and be proficient in the following software: Dreamweaver, HTML, Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, XML, Articulate, Captivate, Presenter, WebEx, Go-to-Meetings, Blackboard, and HTML 5. Wow. I can barely catch my breath! Does such a person exist? In a few cases, yes – but precious, precious few. Eh-hem, nothing personal, but how many coders do you know that possess exceptional interpersonal skills?
To lump all these trainer competencies into one position does a huge disservice to any candidate. Even if you find someone who uses both the right and left brain, you are rarely going to find someone who excels in all of these areas. And you probably DO need someone who excels in all of these areas. In addition, I find that organizations rarely understand how long it takes to write and develop eLearning – even if the trainer is doing it full time (I have seen percentages of time attached to the eLearning line item in job descriptions that made me laugh).
In 2002, I posed this question to a training networking group I used to hold in the Phoenix area: “What will the training specialist job description look like in ten years?” It was very interesting. ELearning was in its infancy and no one seemed to think that instructor-led training would significantly decrease. I disagreed. I said that I thought we’d all have to become this odd hybrid of ‘training generalist’. That until organizations fully understood what could be taught with eLearning, how to design it, how to budget for it and how to fully implement it, that we would soon be required to change our ILT hats on a regular basis and become a technology practitioner for our companies. Some of my colleagues refused to believe that one day ILT would go the way of the dinosaur.
Ten years has past. And the need for ILT is waning, eLearning is popping up everywhere in every type of incarnation possible, and my prophecy has come true. What is a bit astounding is that ten years later organizations are still grappling with the same questions they were posing back then. There is still little consensus among them as to what is best taught with eLearning, the best method of delivery, how much it will or should cost and how to implement it. It’s not as though there has not be vetted research done in this area. It speaks more to the varying quality of eLearning out there and organizations’ lack of trust that poorly produced elearning can get the job done (and throw in a dose of ‘training is never any good unless someone stands in front of you to teach it’ – I clap my erasers at that thought).
So, here we are in 2012 with the aforementioned monstrous job description. Lots of trainers split in two, lots of instructor led trainers creating bad PowerPoints passing for eLearning or lots of great eLearning programs coming out of folks who are not at all the ILT type. Not enough real learning going on. What is an organzation to do?
Let me put on my experienced O.D. hat here for a moment – create your OWN organizational needs analysis! First – do yourself a favor and find out what eLearning CAN do and what is better suited to another modality. Have someone find out what good eLearning looks like, feels like and how it can achieve your desired results. Do some research – because its out there – on what is best taught in various modalities – because there are options today in addition to ILT and eLearning. Then, instead of expecting your trainer to ‘do it all’, why not analyze what you really need a ‘body’ to do in your organization and outsource the rest? You may be a large company who needs to convert volumes of instructor led training to eLearning. I’m here to tell you, you can’t have the same person writing and designing all of this and determining a strategy for it implementing it, working with SMEs….it will take you eons even if you found the rare bird who can ‘do it all.’ But maybe the best strategy is to have an eLearning practitioner working for you designing and developing while you and an experienced consultant spend a little time creating a strategy.
Then again, your analysis may reveal that you truly need to hire a strategic learning partner – someone who can analyze and implement like a pro. In this case, it’s probably best to have this individual work with an experience elearning company to produce professional modules that best suit the need.
From my years in O.D., I’m still of the impression that if you really want to make a difference, attempt to do it right the first time. Carefully analyze, then avoid a ‘bandaid’ approach at all costs. Do your homework and hire carefully for your greatest NEED then outsource what you do not have expertise to do in-house. It will save you time and money overall and you just may have the training organizations you’ve always desired – AND results. And you may not need the ‘schizophrenic’ training personality after all.
“I just don’t get this technology! Everything was so much simpler when I was a kid. All we had to worry about back then was riding our bikes around the neighborhood and playing baseball out in the park. Now these kids just want to talk on their cell phones all day. All of this junk is too complex to even use anyway. Whatever happened to just writing a letter?”
To the more mature crowd reading this, that statement probably sounds like something you’ve said aloud to your friends while reminiscing about your personal glory days. Either that or you’ve thought something similar while quietly seething as your teenager sticks his or her nose into the deep void of random minutiae that makes up facebook and twitter. Things would be much simpler if we went back to how things were in the “good old days,” right?
Well, to put it simply…no. Technology has made everything far simpler than it was back in the so-called “Good Old Days.” The trick is pushing past the digital noise and utilizing technology in meaningful ways.
Modern technology has finally made the internet omnipresent in our lives. We are connected at all times to the people and events going on around us. Want to know what your old high school buddy who moved to Albuquerque is up to? Connect to facebook on one of the dozen internet-enabled devices in your home. What’s the score of the ball game? Just reach in your pocket and ask the voice assistant on your smartphone. . Who is that actor who starred in that film? It’s a touch screen away. Being attached to an internet-capable device at all times means that you are always able to find something with which to occupy your time. Unfortunately, this means becoming far more susceptible to productivity-sapping activities like facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. It’s distractions like these that cause one of to think of simpler times; however, modern technology, when we push ourselves past the distractions, has made our lives far simpler than they were before.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to think of the way we went about certain tasks before we had our modern conveniences. It’s even tough for me to think about how I used to have to go home and sit in front of my lousy behemoth of desktop computer just to connect into the internet. That was only four years ago. Now, I have a phone in my pocket that stays connected to the internet at all times. Not to mention the fact that the aforementioned phone is astronomically more powerful than the hulking monstrosity that was my family’s PC.
Modern technology, the internet particularly, has allowed us to become more productive than ever before. We are able to connect with our coworkers with ease, and can complete our work on the go through compact solutions like our phones and tablets. We now possess the tools to be even more productive than we were five years ago, let alone how we were back in the “Glory Days” of old.
For all the distractions and noise it presents, modern technology has given us the tools to live simply and productively to a degree that would have been unthinkable only a short time ago, let alone back in our youth.. Spend less time complaining about the so-called “complexities” of technology and more time actually learning how to exploit it to improve your life, and perhaps you’ll be referring to the world we live in today as the “simple times.”
Superbowl XLVI is history. Eil Manning and the Giants have returned to New York to celebrate, while Tom Brady will have to endure another year of sporting only three Superbowl rings.
Do you remember your favorite play of the game? If you’re a hardcore fan, one probably comes to mind right away. For the rest of us, not so much. We may say the Superbowl’s about celebrating the American pastime and watching two teams face off on the gridiron – and that may have been the case years ago, but let’s face it – today’s Superbowl is all about throwing a party and of course, watching the commercials.
So what was your favorite? Was it the Doritos bribing dog, or maybe M&M Mrs. in the buff, or Jerry Seinfield vying for the first new Acura, or even the dog getting fit to keep up with the VW?
So what was your least favorite? Probably a couple come to mind right away – something you found especially irritating. But here’s a tough question, what were some average commercials you saw? Ones that you thought, why did they spend all those advertising dollars on that? Hmmm, having trouble remembering? Why is that, why do we remember the great ones and not the average ones?
It’s pretty obvious. We remember the ones that told a story, that tugged at our heartstrings, ones that made us laugh – we remember when we connect.
Elearning kind of works the same way – a really average commercial has a lot of the same attributes as a really average eLearning program. We tune out, we turn off and we don’t remember.
That’s why at Cine Learning we make our eLearning engaging by focusing on storytelling in a familiar and entertaining way – our learners are likely to enjoy and yes, remember. And while we may not have a Sunday devoted to our eLearning with millions of devoted viewers…well not yet. We can always dream.
Here’s one scenario we hear often. Let’s see if it applies to you:
You have – potentially – an amazing group of new hires. They’re eager to start work. They grab their cups of coffee, report to you and you take them to their office, their cube, their new cozy little home for 8 hours a day.
After they’re seated, per instruction from your corporate office, you log them into your company’s online “New Hire Orientation”…..all….three hours of it….
Your new staff clicks through slide after slide of content that would put the most fervent insomniac to sleep. They fidget, they yawn, they daydream, they think of a time when it will be over so they can start their ‘real work.’ But in the meantime, these new hires are silently de-motivating. They wonder if your workplace is an exciting one after all. I mean, it was your company that produced this death by PowerPoint they’re watching. They’re not catching on to important concepts they really need to know because it has been presented in such a non-engaging, rote fashion. They might as well be listening to Ben Stein deliver the information to them.
After it’s finished, your new hires resemble the walking dead. Your once eager new hires are now reduced to blank stares and limp bodies. Yes, they’ll awake soon enough, but the damage has been done. First impressions are powerful in any instance you choose. As adults, we make value judgments on just about everything. Our initial impressions often dictate how much we value something. If their first impression is bad eLearning, you could tune them out before you turn them on.
What kind of impression are you setting for your new hires? Our company, Cine Learning Productions has produced a number of New Hire Orientations that ‘wow’ new hires. We hear comments like,
“Our employees love this!”
Love? New Hire Orientation? Really? Yes. Frankly, you have to know how to do it. We do. We can help.
Organizations may need to re-think their method of ”check the box” compliance training if new government stats are any indication.
The numbers are in and according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency received a record number of private sector charges of employment discrimination in 2011 – the highest in its 46-year history. The year’s total topped 2010 results by 25 complaints with a total of 99,947. The EEOC reported the most common complaints to be alleged retaliation by the employer against the employee with 37,334 charges filed.
The EEOC staff obtained more than $455.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of workplace discrimination. This is the highest level recorded in the Commission’s history. In addition to retaliation charges, other complaints included discrimination based on religion, race, sex and age as well as disability bias. The agency achieved the highest payout in history despite a 30 percent reduction in the agency workforce. A related article by Cultural IQ quoted EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien.
“I am proud of the work of our employees and believe this demonstrates what can be achieved when we are given resources to enforce the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination,” said Berrien. “The EEOC was able to strategically manage existing resources and take full advantage of increased resources in the past two fiscal years to make significant progress towards effective enforcement of the nation’s civil rights laws.”
So where do private sector companies fit into the equation?
Some speculate the sagging job market spurred employees to increase the number of complaints as reported by http://bottomline.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/24/10225036-discrimination-complaints-reach-all-time-high, Another cause may be employers failing to provide adequate compliance training for all mployees based on discrimination laws enforced by the EEOC, http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/index.cfm.
Cine Learning Production CEO, Diane Senffner explains the key to accomplishing compliance training is providing concise, interesting content where the employee feels invested in the outcome. In a recent Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) eLearning course designed for the Arizona Department of Health Services, Senffner says ASHS reported 98 percent of employees voluntarily completed the course prior to the deadline without having to send reminders to employees. She explains such completion rates can be acheived with all types of complicance training including those required by the EEOC.
“I am very proud of the compliance courses we create,” she said. “Checking a box is fine but learners really need to understand the relevance of the material presented to them to comply. Our courses do that in a very engaging, learner-centric way.”
If anyone needed any evidence of the rapidly changing digital landscape, they need only look at the recent fate of tech giant Hewlett-Packard. Faced with dwindling PC sales, while failing to make a dent in the Apple-dominated smartphone and tablet markets, HP took drastic action; On August 18, HP announced not only that they were shutting down their tablet and smartphone divisions, but were also considering spinning off their PC business. The fall from grace suffered by a former giant like HP is only another case of a company failing to tap into the potential of emerging technologies. It also shows how clinging to outmoded ideas about the role of technology can be a company’s death sentence.
So, what does all of this have to do with eLearning? If anything, HP’s recent woes should serve as a rallying cry for those who strive to redefine the eLearning space. The personal computer revolution is over. In its place is a new kind of computing revolution in which people can access information wherever and whenever they please. eLearning can’t be left behind in this new era of information. The opportunities presented by the tablet and smartphone markets are very exciting, and offer countless opportunities for innovation.
As it gets easier to access information, people will only expect more from the training they receive at work. Why sit through an antiquated slide show when a world of possibilities for learning lies in their pocket? In this new digital era, all it takes is one creative idea to completely redefine learning. Now imagine what an entire team of creative individuals could do. If information wishes to be free, then it’s up for the eLearning industry to open the gates.
As adults, we place a value on every moment in our lives. When it comes to optional education, not compulsory education, we do what we MUST do first – in our jobs, in our lives. This leaves little time for anything else. eLearning and distance learning, unless prescribed, is only accessed when we need to learn something (argument for just-in-time learning).
Even when prescribed, as designers, we have very little time to MOTIVATE the learner before they disengage because of perceived lack of value (how will it help me in my work? in my daily life? Oh – this is humourous – I’m going to go through it because it’s fun…). If you are creating a page turner – a ‘PowerPoint on steroids’ – you can be sure that people will disengage quickly unless they need to learn the information or have to click through the course to get credit.
Distance education is only as good at the people you have creating it, and often, the money you wish to spend on it. Ben Franklin said, “Penny-wise, pound foolish.” This applies to eLearning as well. If you decide on a product completely created in China (sorry China, right now it’s really, very bad), you get what you pay for. eLearning with a rapid authoring tool by an SME who knows nothing about adult education often falls into the same category. It’s no different than having someone who is a terribly bad facilitator teaching an instructor-led. We’ve all had those. There’s no value in them and we find the time spent to be excruciating.
My advice is to leave eLearning and distance learning to the experts – those who understand the demographics of your learners and how they learn. Be willing to let go the concept of ‘it must be serious and dry or it’s not learning’ and be driven to spend a little money because as my father used to say, ‘Nothing’s for nothing, kid.’
Oh and just when you think people do not like to learn online – look at social media tools, Google, wikipedia, etc. etc. People crave knowlege – they just don’t like to watch something dull that reads like a PowerPoint. When will we learn? It’s right there to harvest….